3 Questions for Sascha Hoffmann about Digital Product Management

3 Questions for Sascha Hoffmann about Digital Product Management

Prof. Dr. Sascha Hoffmann is Professor of Online Management at the Fresenius University of Applied Sciences in Hamburg. His edited volume “Digital Product Management” was recently published by Springer Gabler.


Dear Mr. Hoffmann – “Digital product management” is an abstract term for some people at first. Give us an example to make it concrete and tangible.

Sascha Hoffmann: Digital product management is about successfully (further) developing digital products and services, i.e. websites, apps or software in general. Successful means, above all, that the products are really desired from the user’s point of view and that there is a real market for them. Digital product management therefore focuses very strongly on the (future) user and his or her needs – without neglecting, of course, that the product must also be commercially successful and technically feasible.

To ensure this, digital product management today works in an agile manner. Generally speaking, this means actively obtaining regular feedback from the market both before the actual product development (writing the software code) and throughout the programming process to ensure that market needs are not lost sight of during product development. An example of this is, for example, the new Stories format introduced at LinkedIn or also the banking app N26, which is developed from the user perspective to a much greater extent than at traditional banks.

Two very widespread agile methods are Scrum and Kanban. In contrast to project management, however, product management is not “just” about successfully launching a product on the market, but rather about ensuring that it is also successful in the long term and offers real added value.

What core competencies do product managers of digital products need and what tools do they absolutely have to master?

Sascha Hoffmann: The requirements for a product manager are very diverse. He (she) is holistically responsible for the content design and further development of “his” (her) product. This becomes particularly clear in Scrum. There, the role of the “product owner” is explicitly provided for – a designation that is also used in part in companies that organize their digital product development with other agile methods.

The area of responsibility of product managers ranges from the initial identification of new product ideas and the validation of their user and company potential, through the specification of requirements and the management of their implementation, to the sustainably successful further development of digital products.

The ideal digital product manager is therefore a “chicken-and-egg” who fundamentally needs to have strong communication skills and a great deal of interpersonal tact in order to involve everyone involved in the development of a product and at the same time not lose sight of his or her product roadmap.

I find the job of a product manager incredibly fascinating because of the wide variety of topics it covers. Product managers are desperately sought after on the market. So far, however, there have been very few systematic training programs for product managers. At the Fresenius University of Applied Sciences, for example, we have been offering courses on digital product management in some degree programs since this year on my initiative, and we are very far ahead of the field in Germany. Companies therefore often try to fill the need for product managers by training communicative software developers or IT-savvy business administrators from their own ranks to become product managers.

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